On Eve's 18th birthday, the scientists greeted her with a cake - and a revelation. "Eve," said the oldest scientist, a wizened old lady who used a walking-stick and smoked a pipe. "As you are now a legal adult, it is our duty to tell you who you really are... what you are." Eve finished the birthday cake, candles and all, in a minute. She washed it down with a bottle of kerosene. "Could you get me another one of those cakes?" she asked in her soft-spoken voice. "I love strawberry taste." The old lady pounded the floor with her stick. "Eve! Pay attention. You've been raised in this underground bunker for a reason. It's time we tell you about the world outside." Eve frowned and stood up from bed. She was wearing bulky lead weights on her legs, to prevent her from head-butting the ceiling - in her sleep or otherwise. She wore a form-fitting bodysuit of woven kevlar, the only material strong enough to be her clothing. Eve had the outward build of a Russian shot-putter, and the round, innocent face of a young woman. She considered the scientists to be her parents. All she knew was what they had taught her, so she trusted their every word. "Ah yes, the wasteland. Is it still bad? The radiation levels, I mean?" "Well... this is going to come as a shock to you, dear, but there never was a nuclear war." Eve gaped and grasped the frame of her reinforced steel bed, accidentally squeezing the frame and leaving an inprint of her hand. "Are you kidding?" "No. You see, the outside world wasn't ready for you, nor you ready for it, until you had matured. There were people there who might be afraid of you, or persecute you..." "People? There are people outside? You mean deformed mutants?" "No. The outside world isn't radioactive, it's safe for any of us to enter. Now is the time for you to go into the world and become a citizen..." Eve began to cry. Tears of highly acidic liquid streamed down her face, hitting the concrete floor with small puffs of smoke. "I don't wanna leave," she blubbered. "I want to stay here with you." "And we'll be with you, in the world," the old lady told her. "Now be a brave girl. Make us proud of you. Step up into the elevator and prepare to meet the world." Eve moved past the crowd of scientists, who scattered like frightened, lab-coated mice - some still limped from having their toes crushed by Eve's lead-booted feet. A wall section had slid open, revealing a dusty elevator. "I'm afraid," she said. "What will happen to me out there?" "You'll be a superhero," the old lady said happily. "Like in the comic-books and movies, you know. Protecting the weak and oppressed, fighting evildoers, upholding our way of life." Eve still hesitated. "Will there be others like me out there?" "We're not sure. Our nation's enemies might have developed similar superhumans in secret. If you find any, tell us and we'll help you deal with them. But remember, ordinary people are fragile! Be gentle. And don't worry, you've got your phone and can call us anytime!" "I will." She leaned down to let the old lady hug her. "Thanks. I-I'll call." Taking a deep breath, Eve stepped into the elevator and ascended the 100 meters to the surface. The great logo on the elevator walls, a golden caped woman holding a torch of liberty, bore the insignia: EVE PROJECT - GUARDIAN OF TOMORROW. Eve had no cape, just the tight dark-gray kevlar bodysuit and lead boots. "I don't feel like any guardian of tomorrow," she muttered into the phone headset. "What will people say? What if I'm arrested? Why didn't you give me more instructions?" "To tell the truth, we don't know how to prepare you. It's better you face the challenge with a blank, open mind. Surface level. Good luck."
***Eve walked out of the elevator on the ground floor of a dusty old warehouse. The sound of her boots echoed through the vast empty building. She quickly found the exit and tore open the barred doors. Peeking outside, she squinted against the sunlight. Scanning the terrain with her superhuman eyesight, Eve spotted a road 500 meters away, and a road sign: LOS ANGELES 40 MILES. The surrounding desert was empty of human life. Eve unlaced her lead boots and took a few leaping steps. Giggling to herself, she gained speed and took off in a cloud of dust.
***The scientists below the ground kept track of Eve's movements through her phone's GPS. On the big-screen map of America, Eve was a blue crosshair following the intricate freeway system - occasionally leaping across roads. "She's stopped," one scientist declared. "Street address... Disneyland." "She's on the local news channels!" "Why not sooner?" "She was moving too fast for camera crews to follow." Unbeknownst to Eve, the scientists were also using her cellular phone to listen in on her heartbeat, blood pressure and conversation. Now the sound of her breathing - otherwise deep and quite slow - grew quicker. Eve's voice came in over the bunker's speaker system: "Excuse me, is this Los Angeles?" Someone in the vicinity stammered: "Y-y-yes." Helicopters buzzed in the background, and on the TV news one could see them tracking Eve. She was standing near the great castle, surrounded by visitors. In one hand she was grabbing the rail of a hot-dog stand, in the other a bottle of mustard from which she ate. The old lady was worried. "She still can't control her appetite. I'll call her up." Eve's eyes grew vacant as her headphone set buzzed. "Hello? Yes, I'm doing fine. There's so many nice people here, and I smell all this food... mmm... mustard!" "Eve," said the old lady through the phone, "in the outside world food is not just for the taking. You have to pay for it. Use the traveling cash we put in your pockets. Now pay the nice man for what you ate." "Okay." "Good." A rising chorus of voices around Eve made it difficult to hear her voice over the line. "Eve, can you hear me?" "Loud and clear. I've paid for the hot dogs. I wanna try something else. There's another vendor here. Now that looks good! I'll try with mustard on..." The scientists stared at the live TV news broadcast. Many of them had spent half their lives giving birth to Eve, raising her, learning her weaknesses and strengths. Controlling her appetite had been the greatest problem. They had learned that Eve was irresistibly drawn to smells; her sense of smell was as good as that of a dog, or better. Any pleasant smell made Eve very, very hungry. Terror filled the old lady's face when she saw Eve move toward the babycart. "No, Eve! That's not a vendor, that's a mother! That's a baby! You're not supposed to buy them! I don't care what they smell like! They're humans too, only smaller! Eve, don't! Oh my God! NOOO!!"
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